GLOBE and My NASA Data Collection, Visualization and Analysis through Concept Mapping

Initial Publication Date: August 17, 2023


Through the use of the GLOBE Observer app and My NASA data, students will explore the acquisition, visualization, and analysis of data. Students will be exposed to the value of citizen science and the role science plays in our lives and communities. Students will first learn to identify basic cloud types and features with the My NASA cloud sorting, cloud cover, and sky watcher cloud chart (background knowledge). Secondly, students will utilize the GLOBE Observer app to collect cloud and dust data across different locations and time frames (data acquisition). They will upload the data to the GLOBE NASA database (citizen science). Thirdly, students will be able to understand, analyze, and interpret data quality based on observation completeness and accuracy as well as visualization tools (data evaluation). Students will then work with the Earth System Data Explorer to visualize how these different kinds of data are used by scientists to understand the natural world and complex processes and interactions of Earth's spheres (data visualization and analysis). Finally, students will produce a series of cumulative concept maps as they evaluate the steps in the data acquisition, analysis, and interpretation process through the GLOBE app and My NASA site's Earth System Data Explorer.

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Learning Goals

Students are introduced to databases, visualizations and concept maps by learning about clouds, collecting citizen science data, and analyzing NASA data sets. The module is scaffolded to introduce new information and tools that build on the previous activities and provide them with necessary background information and tools to achieve the following:

  • To differentiate cloud types and cloud cover
  • To collect cloud, sky, and dust cover data using the GLOBE Observer app (Citizen Science)
  • To assess data quality (completeness, reliability, and accuracy) of the GLOBE database
  • To learn basic functionalities of Excel, the GLOBE Observer app, and the My NASA Earth System Data Explorer
  • To visualize and compare datasets in the My NASA Earth System Data Explorer
  • To obtain, evaluate, and communicate information through the use of concept maps

Context for Use

This module is intended for use in introductory undergraduate science classes. It can be implemented in a face-to-face, hybrid, or online environment. It is adaptable to small and large class sizes and can be done as an individual or group assignment. This project can be scaffolded to a 2-4 week activity (depending on the GLOBE app data collection duration) as either an in-class or homework assignment. However, module can be shortened to 2 hour sections by not including the data collection section and focusing on existing downloadable site data only. A smart phone is required to download the GLOBE Observer app (data collection section) and access to a computer with Excel and the internet is needed. However, datasets and images can be downloaded ahead of time if internet access is an issue. The module can be implemented at any time in the semester.

How Instructors Have Used This Module

Using Project EDDIE modules in Earth Science
Adriana Perez, El Paso Community College
Working with real life data can be a a very rewarding activity for students. It gives them the opportunity to have hands-on experience and therefore is more likely to enhance their learning experience.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students will learn about the different cloud types and will be able to describe differences in cloud height, cloud shape and cloud cover. Students will use this activity to produce their first concept map as practice. Students should understand what a concept (mind) map is and how to construct one. Concept map complexity should reflect the students' critical thinking evolution as the activities become more detailed. Students will be utilizing NASA's Globe observer app (download from the app store) to collect local data and learn about the protocols and data acquisition process of the GLOBE project. Instructors can refer to the Clouds Protocol (Acrobat (PDF) PRIVATE FILE 2.7MB Feb8 22) for guidance. Students can collect data individually or in groups in accordance to the day and time protocols set by the instructor. Time frame for data collection will vary (one day to multiple weeks) depending on the protocol set by the instructor. Students will produce a series of concept maps as they learn about cloud types, GLOBE data, and assess data completeness and accuracy by analyzing the GLOBE database including satellite imagery matching. Students will also be introduced to the my NASA Earth visualization tool and database for analysis. Throughout the module, students will produce a series of concept maps to communicate their understanding and findings.

Quick overview of the activities in this module

  • Activity A: Learn about cloud types and develop a series of concept maps (cloud sort activity, modeling cloud cover and sky watcher cloud chart). Students will develop the first concept map for this activity.
  • Activity B: Learn about data protocols and data acquisition by utilizing NASA's GLOBE app. Students will develop the second concept map for this activity.
  • Activity C: Assess data completeness and accuracy by analyzing the GLOBE database including satellite imagery matching. Students will produce a third concept map for this activity.
  • Activity D: Visualize and compare data using the my NASA Earth System Data Explorer.
  • Final module reflection and optional concept map.

Workflow of this module:

  1. Assign the cloud sort activity, cloud cover, and sky watcher cloud chart as a pre-module activity before capturing observational data on GLOBE app. Although the sort activity is intended for less experienced audiences, it makes for a good starting point for students to practice building concept maps (Handout 1).
  2. Capture cloud data using the GLOBE app. The amount of time spent on this section will depend on when in the semester you start the module and how instructor sets the protocol. Observations can be done in one day for practice or over weeks for analysis. (Handout 2).
  3. Students will work with the GLOBE Advance Data Access Tool (Handout 3)
  4. Guide students through the My NASA Earth System Data Explorer data visualizations (Handout 4).
  5. Discuss the evolution of the concept maps through the data analysis (Reflection).

Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

  • The GLOBE data acquisition time protocol can be modified to fit the available class time. One-day observations are enough for students to understand how the app works and the role that citizen scientists play in data acquisition. Longer time observations allow for students to compare and contrast individual or class data.
  • It is recommended that students using The Advanced Data Search Toolkit download a maximum of two week's worth of data to avoid spreadsheet malfunction. It is encouraged that students also practice using different filters to narrow their search. Sample sets are provided in the handout if students are not able to work with live dataset.
  • Earth Observer Data visualizations - For the activity, students are only asked to view and analyze cloud cover, but instructors may want them to explore other data sets.
  • We recommend students share their concept maps in a Storymap, class presentation, or discussion forum. Instructor may want to keep a class concept map to incorporate all student ideas and to be used as an activity to wrap up each section. In addition to activity questions, individual or class concept maps can help gauge student understanding and actively encourage student participation, discussion and contribution.


Students can be assessed on:

  • The series of concept maps that is produced through the different parts of the activity. Major processes identified, relationships between them shown, and level of complexity reflects student understanding as new information and activities are explored.
    • Examples of concept maps for handouts:
  • GLOBE Observer app data acquired and uploaded successfully. Field observations log.
  • Handout questions.

References and Resources

Cloud identification charts to be used in the field as students capture data:

Description of the GLOBE observer project and links to datasets:

Earth System Data Explorer Tutorial: Earth System Data Explorer Tutorial Final - Earth System Data Explorer Tutorial Final.pdf (Acrobat (PDF) 1.4MB Jul1 23)

National Park Service concept map rubric:

Novak, J. D., & Cañas, A. J. (2008). The theory underlying concept maps and how to construct and use them (Technical Report). Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

Overview of concept map construction: Lucid Software. Concept maps YouTube video